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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/162

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148
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

almost every point of view as appalling. When lie commenced to rule in 1863 "the debt of Egypt was a little over three million pounds sterling ($15,000,000). The annual revenue of the country was amply sufficient to meet all needful expenditure. Yet at the end of 1876 the debt had risen to £89,000,000 ($4-15,000,000). A country of six million inhabitants and only five million acres of cultivated land had added to its burdens at the rate of £7,000,000 ($35,000,000) a year. At the same time the taxation of land had been increased by something like fifty per cent. There is nothing in the fiscal history of any country, from the remotest ages to the present time, equal to this carnival of extravagance and oppression." (England in Egypt, by Sir Alfred Milner, late Under-Secretary for Finance in Egypt. London, 1891.)

The revenue annually collected under Ismail Pasha is probably not accurately known, and has been reported as high as £15,000,000 ($75,000,000) from an estimated population in 1872 of 5,203,000. But, whatever the amount, it is certain that a very considerable portion of what was wrung from the miserable peasantry, never found its way into any official ledger, or reached the national treasury. Of a great loan of £32,000,000 effected by the Khedive in 1873, only £20,700,000 reached the Egyptian treasury. The total amount sunk by the Government in the Suez Canal is estimated at £16,075,000 ($80,375,000). Yet Egypt has no share in the vast profits of the undertaking. It was not, however, the amount of taxation, crushing as it was in many cases, which worked the greatest mischief. "It was, above all, the cruel and arbitrary manner in which the taxes were collected. The fellah was seldom sure of the amount that would be demanded of him. He was never sure of the moment when the demand would be made. The moment might, as likely as not, be the very one in which he was i least able to pay. Called upon to find ready money while his crops were still in the ground, he was simply driven into the arms of the money-lender. His choice lay between so many blows of the koorbash and the acceptance of the usurer's terms, however onerous. Under these circumstances money was borrowed at as much as sixty per cent per annum. Worse than that, it was often obtained by the sale of the growing crops, which were estimated for the purpose of the advance at half or less than half their value. This state of things was bad enough, and it was pretty general, but the ruin of the cultivator was consummated in many instances by positive collusion with the usurer on the hint of corrupt officials. The latter would demand the payment of taxes by the peasant, who was already in debt, at the very time when the interest on his debt was due. If he had any cash at all the authorities were bound to get it. When the usurer came after them, there was nothing left to the fellah but to surrender his land and